How to respond to students who refuse to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance?

In a recent article, a teacher confronted a high school student for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Many teachers desire to guide students in a positive manner. Teachers can use several strategies to avoid the embarrassment associated with students who have parental permission to avoid standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to the article, Teacher Confronts Lakewood High School Student For Refusing To Stand For Pledge of Allegiance, a sixteen year old high school student refused to follow a teachers directive to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. On the next day the student continued to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher told the student that he could not find any policy that allowed students to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Why are students allowed to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance? 

In January 9, 1942, after the Minersville School District v. Gobitis court decision, the West Virginia Legislature redefined its statutes to require all schools in the state to conduct courses of instruction in history, civics, and in the Constitutions of the United States and the state of West Virginia. In response, the West Virginia State Board of Education was directed to implement courses of study consistent with the decision by the West Virginia Legislature.

The board required that the  salute to the flag become an intricate part of the program in the public schools.  All teachers and students were required to participate in the salute honoring the nation represented by the Flag. If a teacher or student refused to salute the flag ii was considered an act of insubordination.

In 1943, the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette determined the requirement for students standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Supreme Court of the United States held that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. Justice Robert H. Jackson delivered the courts 6-3 decision.

Why do schools continue to force students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance? 

Even though the requirement to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance is a violation of a students Freedom of Speech Rights, school districts continue to force and require students to stand. In New Mexico, the Department of Education Secretary will not provide students an opt out of standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. In Marion County Florida, the school district continues to require that students participate in the pledge. The 11th circuit court in Florida has opted to allow school districts to require that student recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, the students are not required to stand.

It appears that schools continue to desire to create citizens that are loyal to the country. However, the methods used seem to be contradictory to the Bill of Rights, the constitution and is paramount to shoving social principles down the throats of our school aged students.

The requirement of the Pledge of Allegiance can place the teacher in a precarious position. On one side, the school wants their students to experience freedoms and on the other side, schools want to limit the freedoms that students can experience.

What is a teacher to do when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance?

It is best for teachers to always respect the rights of their students. When a student refuses to stand ask them why? Do not make it confrontational. If they give a supposedly acceptable answer, that is consistent with their constitutional rights, ask them to bring you their documentation and a permission letter from their parents. Once you have the documentation share the information with your immediate administrator and request direction for how to guide this student and the remaining students in the classroom.

Related Articles

Why a Victorville boy won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance

Lakewood High confrontation: Student refuses to say pledge

CA Student & School Clash Over Standing for Pledge of Allegiance


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3 Responses to How to respond to students who refuse to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance?

  1. Andy says:

    > When a student refuses to stand ask them why? Do not make it confrontational. If they give a supposedly acceptable answer, that is consistent with their constitutional rights, ask them to bring you their documentation and a permission letter from their parents

    This is completely misguided logic. The student should not be forced to explain her reason for not standing for the Pledge, nor should she require permission from her parents. Having the teacher question her decision to sit is a type of coercion intended to subtly force her to stand and recite the Pledge by embarrassing her in front of her peers.

    This logic counters what you explained earlier in your post about the Supreme Court ruling that students have the choice to sit. The Supreme Court never said that students must give a reason nor must acquire parental permission for not standing for or reciting the Pledge.

    The legal course of action for teachers is to ignore the non-participating student. Let her sit. Do not draw attention to the matter.


    • The problem with your logic is that many students are not mature enough to ensure that the incident does not become confrontational. School have a right to ensure that the school runs safely. The best way for the youth to succeed at this is to have a well thought out plan. Which includes the parent(s) coaching their behavior.


  2. Wentworth says:

    I stopped standing for the pledge in 9th grade when Bush “won” his second term. A few teachers wanted me to explain myself and I had about a million reasons, but I always gave them the one I felt was most important: “Because I choose not to.”

    Got sent to the principal once and he says, “Standing for the pledge is not optional.” I said “Yes it is.” He says “No, it’s not.” I said “Make me.” He turned about 50 shades of red, called me immature and said my attitude wouldn’t get me very far in life before dismissing me back to class.

    Funny thing is junior year all these same idiots telling me to stand for the pledge are now advising me to take out a $100k loan so i could get 4 more years of worthless indoctrination, and an internship bringing someone coffee. I moved to Bangkok for 2 years teaching kindergarten English, then moved back to my hometown and started a landscaping business. Moral of the story, dont do something unless you really want to.


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